Corsham Repair Cafe celebrates its third year!

Corsham Repair Cafe September 19th 2015

Today our Repair Cafe celebrated its third birthday! What began as an idea inspired by the Dutch movement (repaircafe.org) has now marked three years at The Pound arts centre in Corsham, where I work.

Since 2013 we have made nearly 200 repairs which means these items have not gone to landfill. Our volunteers have helped people to fix broken toasters, clothing, chairs and even a puppet. Today’s items included a backpack, pair of trousers, coffee machine and a lamp.

backpack being mended at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandytales.wordpress.com

Sadly this Kenwood record player couldn’t be fixed with the materials that were available, but we’re hopeful the owner will be able to pick up a replacement belt online:

Kenwood record player at Corsham Repair Cafe via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

And we all finished with a well deserved slice of cake! Happy Birthday Corsham Repair Cafe!

Corsham Repair Cafe: third birthday

Zero Waste Week (and eating leftovers)

zero-waste-week-1024x683

Today is Day Three of Zero Waste Week, the international campaign run by Rae Strauss, the inspirational voice behind my zero waste blog. The initiative has been running since 2008 and its aim is to get participants thinking about their waste. This year’s theme is about reducing food waste and so I have been looking at ours.

We tend to be pretty good with using up food. I freeze quite a lot of prepared food. I tend to do one monthly supermarket shop and will often cook up batches of roast peppers and other veg, and then freeze them for use in pizzas and pasta dishes.

However I’m not so good with our fortnightly veg box. In principal I love the idea of an organic veg and fruit box, delivered to my door (I don’t have daily access to a car). However, hand on heart, I think we waste at least one item per fortnight because the kids won’t eat it, or it goes off quickly. And there’s only so many soups you can make…

organic vegetable box via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

This week I shopped at our local greengrocers buying just what we needed (according to our meal plan). In an attempt to prevent food waste I’ve also found myself eating leftover tea for lunch every day this week: two lots of macaroni cheese and, today the remains of a sweet potato and sausage casserole (plus some jacket potato remains and a serving of peas). The addition of some sour cream and chopped coriander actually made it quite delicious:

Zero Waste Week: sweet potato leftovers

I’ve also dug deep into the food cupboard and made use of these second-hand Oat Cheerios (second-hand because they were given by a friend who didn’t like them,but my kids weren’t fans either). Thanks to the wonder of Pinterest I turned them into chocolate cheerio bars.

Zero Waste Week: using up unwanted cereal via secondhandtales bog

 

If you want to find out more about Zero Waste Week have a look at the site and these tips here for reducing food waste. I also really rate the LoveFood,HateWaste website, which has some useful pointers about measuring portions.

Watch this space for more updates on my leftovers journey this week…

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Plastic Free July: Failing to plan…

So, despite the fact that I have been trying to avoid some single use plastic for the past couple of years I still slip up by failing to plan. Sometimes I can be very good and take a  trip out with my disposable coffee cup/water bottle, spork, napkin and reusable bags.

But there are also times when I don’t think ahead. For example this week I went to see the wonderful Billy Bragg in concert (a great, therapeutic post-Brexit experience).

But I hadn’t even clocked that, at the bar, drinks would be served in disposable plastic glasses. This is something that is so obvious and, as someone who works the bar in an Arts Centre, I should have known this. Of course, because I couldn’t go without a pint of the local brew, ‘Funky Monkey’, I had to order the drinks in the plastic pint glasses.

What makes me even more cross with myself is that we have two reusable plastic pint glasses picked up from last year’s festivals:

reusuable plastic pint glasses

So, next time I go to a gig I must remember to take one of these. Sometimes I feel I need a crystal ball to predict what sort of disposable plastic products I will be faced with on a day to day business. And if I packed for every eventuality I would have a very heavy bag….

Still it’s all a learning experience and, as I promised myself, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

On an unexpected positive note this week I ordered a t-shirt which, although it did arrive in a plastic bag, had only this fabric label attached:

Redbubble label

The label explains the care instructions and points customers towards its returns website. I was also very impressed that it was attached to the t-shirt with the wooden clothes peg, rather than those awful plastic tags that end up lost on the floor when you cut them off!

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Plastic Free July article in Green Parent magazine

Green Parent magazine June/July 2016

A couple of years ago I took part in Plastic Free July; a worldwide initiative to encourage participants to cut down on – or eliminate – single use plastic.

I found it to be a really enlightening, yet frustrating,challenge. I learnt a lot about alternatives to plastic wrapping, straws, disposable cups etc but also discovered that plastic is everywhere. By linking up with like minded bloggers I picked up tips on how to go plastic free but also found out just how prevalent the material is (did you know there is plastic in tea bags and chewing gum?).

Suffice to say that I haven’t repeated the challenge but have tried to incorporate some of the things I learned into everyday life.

 

Anyway, to cut to the chase, I wrote an article on my experience of Plastic Free July for the Green Parent magazine and it is featured in their current June/July edition. I have written for them before (as I dabble in some freelance writing) and love their ethos and attitude. I also blogged about the magazine here as one of my go-to inspirational reads on slow living.

The Green Parent magazine is on sale in major newsagents and supermarkets or you can find it here. Even if you don’t have children – or your kids have grown up – I still think it’s a wonderful resource for anyone wanting to live a greener life.

(Plastic Free July 2016 begins next week on Friday  1st July. My blog post here summarises my thoughts at the end of the 2014 challenge)

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Upcycling Denim Part Two: Jeans to Skirt

upcycled denim skirt

Since buying my denim sewing needles I have gone a bit mad with the denim upcycling! I mended – and then remade – some children’s jeans into shorts here.

I also embarked on a rather long, but fulfilling, project to turn an old pair of jeans into a skirt.

I started with this old pair of jeans which had been mended quite a few times, before being replaced by my second-hand Toast pair.

mended jeans

I started by chopping them off at the knees. Then I unpicked the inner leg seams on both the front and back:

upcycling jeans

However because I wasn’t paying attention when unpicking I accidentally unpicked an outer seam too on one side:

jeans to skirt

Still I decided to turn this ‘accident’ into a feature. I took an old (second-hand) skirt which I loved but which was far too tight:

skirt upcycle

So far, so good (ish). Because I wasn’t following a pattern and rather making the instructions up as I went along I then sewed the two back seams together (that had been previously unpicked from the trouser legs). This involved having to sew over some thick layers of denim. It also left a little triangle at the bottom which I patched with some of the green skirt:

denim skirt refashion

I also sewed some of the green skirt fabric down the side, which I had accidentally unpicked, but I didn’t add a patch to the front.

You can kind off see they were jeans and there is a fair amount of bad sewing in the project, but I like that it’s not perfect.

 

denim skirt made from jeans

 

Tomorrow is our quarterly Repair Cafe and I intend to wear this skirt!

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Springtime Walk

May walk

I’ve been laid low with a rotten cold all week (and even spent a day in bed). I’m starting to feel better but struggling to catch up with everything that needs doing, and preparing for two busy weeks ahead.

With that in mind, I took myself off for an uplifting walk. Last September I walked along this lane and photographed it (see here) and it’s lovely to see the seasonal changes.

On the left is how the lane looked in September; on the right is today’s photo.

 

May walkcountry lane, Wiltshire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directly below is the misty Autumn view across the valley; today’s view is underneath:

Wiltshire view in AutumnWiltshire view in May

On my September walk I had taken an image of apples growing on a tree. I’m pretty sure this is the same tree, covered in blossom:

May apple blossom

May really is a lovely time of the year. If my head wasn’t still full of cold I’m sure I could think of some appropriate adjectives….!

What are your green ‘no nos’?

I was thinking about this the other day while trying to work out what I could shave off our monthly grocery bill. There are some things that I will swap, or do without, if I need to cut costs (or for convenience) but these are the things I won’t do:

1. Swap free range eggs for factory farmed

Well this is a bit of a no-brainer. I would rather go without eggs than buy cheaper products produced by caged animals. Where we live we are lucky enough to either get eggs from a local smallholding, or free range ones from the newspaper shop (you get a discount for reusing your egg box)

free range eggs

2. Buy plastic bags at supermarkets

So occasionally I may buy a ‘bag for life’ but I really wouldn’t buy a plastic bag from a shop. As I tend to have a supermarket delivery and veg box there is very little need to use plastic bags. I also use my trusty net produce bags when shopping in the greengrocers (or they provide paper bags) and take loads of cloth bags with me when shopping.

package free grocery shopping

3. Buy first hand

After all this blog is called ‘second-hand tales’! Over the past few years we have made a conscious decision to try to buy second-hand. Rather than automatically going to Ikea, Currys or B&Q to buy a new item of furniture, or electrical item, we have scoured charity shops, facebook sales and ebay to pick up a pre-loved alternative. Not only is this cheaper it is also extending the life of the object. I love the fact that we aren’t buying into the First World mantra that you must buy shiny and new, and buy it often.

second hand sofa, chair and lamp in sitting room

second hand sofa, chair,cushions,picture frames, lamp, piano stool and electric organ (plus bookshelves from reclaimed floorboards)

4. Buy a second car, or drive when we can walk

I’ve written here about how we manage without a second car living in a small rural village. However owning a second car is just a complete no-no. Not only can we not afford it, or find anywhere to park it, it makes no environmental sense. I like the fact that I have to be resourceful when being car-less and that, during the school holidays, the children and I use the local bus service (which still costs over a tenner for an eight mile journey!). Even when we do have the car we have to garage it quite a distance from the house. To be honest I’d rather walk than have to get the car out, anyway.

5. Not recycle

This may seem like quite an obvious one but, yes, I do know people who still don’t recycle! Saying that, I have tried very hard to not need to recycle in the first place. That is, to reduce the packaging and other items that come into our house that can then be recycled. We try to avoid plastic bottles and containers where possible and reply on a doorstep milk delivery in returnable glass bottles, bars of soap and refillable washing up liquid and cleaners, to name a few.

glass recycling bin in the Netherlands

6.Not Vote

Isn’t this the most important one? I know that, living in rural Wiltshire, it often feels like my vote doesn’t count. But I can hardly moan about it if I don’t at least try to change the voting results, or  let the other candidates know that the environmental issue is an important one. If you read this blog regularly you may also know that my husband has stood for the Green Party in both local and national elections. And last year – for the first time ever – the Greens had a candidate standing in every constituency in our county.

There are plenty more things I would like to do on a regular basis, or commit to permanently. Sometimes I feel like a ‘green’ fraud when I think of the things we haven’t done – or could do better.

Top of this ‘could do better’ list is:

1. Switch to green energy provider

2. Refuse plastic straws at all times

3. Remember to always take refillable water bottle (we went to London last Saturday and got caught out by the heat and had to buy a bottle of water)

4. Use refillable coffee cup – or refuse takeaways

5. When shopping first hand, buy from more ethical suppliers (esp. clothing)

There’s always far more to do, than I’ve actually done. I admire those people who can completely give up plastic, live without producing waste, or devote their time (and purse) to causes such as avoiding palm oil products. But I must always remember that I can only do what is possible at the time and, when I look at how our behaviour has changed (especially since having children) we have come a long way in those things we do – and don’t do – to reduce our impact on the environment.

But over to you: what would you do/not do to lessen your impact on the earth?

 

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Mend It May

Mend It May

I recently wrote here about my sewing pile and trying to find the motivation to tackle it. Well lo and behold a few days later I read that Jen from My Make Do And Mend Life here has set up Mend It May. The idea behind this 31 day project is to get us all mending again. Jen explains it far better in her blog, but there are many reasons why we should all get mending: environmental, cost, learning new skills, sense of achievement etc.

This is just the incentive I need to both a) complete my sewing projects (or at least some) and b) tackle the mending pile. Even though I help to run a Repair Cafe I am still rubbish at getting my own things fixed and, to my shame, have a few items hanging around at home that either need to be mended or taken to the tip (oh the green guilt/shame!).

So far this is my mending/sewing list for May:

  1. button that fell off my trousers last week
  2. finish off bloomin’ denim skirt
  3. look at toaster (our electrician at Repair Cafe said it needed a good clean!)
  4. look at old breadmaker: does it need a new element?
  5.  new glass jar for cafetiere
  6. ipod speakers
  7. various holes in various items of clothing (legacy from our moth infestation here)
  8. name tags on girls’ uniform
  9. stupid cold water button that keeps falling off tap
  10. even my sewing box needs mending (oh the irony!)

sewing box

plus plenty of more! If you are interested in joining in – or just following for tips and inspiration I highly recommend reading Jen’s blog or, if you use Twitter or Instagram the hashtag is #menditmay

Good luck!

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Hung out to dry….

socks drying on washing line

Today is the perfect Spring day to hang out the washing . While I do own a tumble dryer (which I try to resist using) when it’s cold and wet the washing ends up hanging off radiators in every room in the house. It’s always such a relief to get a day when the sun is shining and I can hang clothes out to dry.

clothes drying outside

It may seem like a little thing but hanging out a single load of washing (5kg) can save 2.4kg CO2e asrunning a clothes dryer for a single load is equivalent to switching on 225 low energy bulbs for 30 mins (see here)

In the US 85% of the population owns a tumble dryer and this is by far the preferred option to drying clothes. I read many thrifty/environment type blogs from the US and there are very few bloggers who advocate line drying*.In the UK 57% of the population own a dryer but the majority of us (14 to one) prefer to line dry.

One theory why Americans are reluctant to hang washing out to dry is the restrictions imposed by landlords and local communities. There’s a really interesting BBC article here about the US movement, Project Laundry List, that is fighting community association and landlord restrictions.

Alexander Lee, the founder of Project Laundry List, was inspired to hang his clothes out to dry following this quote from anti-nuclear lecturer, Helen Caldicott, who said: “If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry.”

He believes that if one in three Americans started line drying for five months of the year, 2.2m tonnes of CO2 would have been prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020. Considering we all agreed in Paris last year to halt global warming at 1.5 deg C rise this is a contribution.

It’s certainly true that it takes longer to hang out washing on a line than stuff it inside a tumble dryer. There are times when I’ve been late leaving for work or the school run because I mistimed the washing machine and have had to rush around pegging clothes on the line. On a bitterly cold day it’s not much fun to hang up wet washing and then know that it won’t even dry properly and will have to be put on the radiators lately. Or the days when I’m constantly running in and out of the house to bring loads in when the weather turns wet.

But I do love the smell of outdoor dried clothes (if you put them on the radiator it’s better than any Yankee Candle scent!). I love that I have done the slow, meditative act of pegging out my family’s clothing and (while trying not to get too Little House on the Prairie about it) have done what generations did before me  – and done my small bit to reduce energy consumption. With a faulty tumble dryers story currently in the press as well I guess it’s probably a safer option too…
pegs

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*Shannon Hayes from the excellent radical homemaker blog (and book) advocates hanging out the washing to dry as one of her ten easy steps to becoming a radical homemaker (read more here from her article for Yes! magazine).

Earth Hour 2016

Last night we switched our lights out for Earth Hour. Our household joined in with other people around the UK in turning off our electric lights for an hour as a symbolic act to show we are concerned about our planet. And the UK joined 178 countries (the most ever) in turning off lights.

There were some major landmarks that took part too including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Salisbury Cathedral and (briefly) Tower Bridge.  For more information on the evening read here.

At home we lit candles and watched a family film

Earth Hour 2016

As the hour crossed over with the children’s bedtime they decided to clean their teeth by candlelight (we did however leave the landing light on as our stairs are very steep).

lights out for Earth Hour 2016

It wasn’t until reading an article today that I realise the candles we lit our house with should be soy or beeswax, and not petroleum based (as this adds more pollution). I know that some of our candles are soy (including the ones I upcycled here from the lovely Skye Candle Company). This is something I’m going to look out for in the future.

Apparently previous Earth Hours have reduced electricity use by 4% – although the reason for taking part last night was much more than that. As our world gets warmer we need to act to do something about it.

If you are interested in doing your bit for the environment (and I know many of my lovely readers already do loads) then there’s a useful list here from Earth Day (which takes place on 22 April) or, throughout the year Jen from my make do and mend life here has 365 Ways to Change the World here.

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